In this week’s Community Chest, City on a Hill Press spoke with environmental science professor and researcher Michael Loik. Loik explained his passion for natural values and his genuine concern for the health of our planet.
CHP: What is it like to be teaching environmental science at this very crucial time in terms of global warming?
Loik: Like you said, it’s crucial. I don’t think there is anything more important than understanding the complex interactions between population growth, global politics, environmental issues, economics and everything we hear on the news. All of these things are intertwined, and all of the impacts are coming down on our forest, grassland and agricultural land resources. Even if there wasn’t climate change occurring, those issues would be causing devastating impacts on our planet’s biodiversity. Multiplied on top of all of that is that we’re altering the characteristics of the atmosphere.
CHP: What is your best moment as an environmental educator so far in your career?
Loik: It’s hard to pin down the one “best moment.” When I was a grad student at UCLA, I moved from LA to rural Colorado — that was a monumental shift in the scientific approach for me. When I was at UCLA I was working on very small-scale, molecular cellular biology questions, and when I went to Colorado, my focus shifted to broader scales associated with global climate change. I was living in a highly urbanized environment and then I found myself in a research position at an incredibly beautiful location at 10,000 feet elevation … It broadened my horizons in many ways.
One of the outcomes of that transition is that now I am really excited year in and year out to teach … There have been so many wonderful students to work with. My former students are now teachers, farmers, activists and scientists. Each of them is doing their part to make sure we can move into a sustainable future. My goal is to inspire people to find the niche where they want to make a difference, and then help them to go and make their difference in that particular corner of the world.
CHP: If there was one thing you could reverse and undo for planet Earth, what would it be?
Loik: I hate to say this, but it would have to be human population growth and industrialization. There are so many things that we all enjoy these days, but when we sum them all up and think about what it means for all the other species in the biodiversity crisis and the impact we have put on the atmosphere, we have a moral imperative to reverse these impacts. I don’t think there is a species that has affected the biosphere and atmosphere as much as we have. CO2 has gone up and down and temperatures have changed, but never at the current rate compared to geologic time. “Business as usual” economic practices mean that billions of people are going to suffer remarkably in the near future.